Russia has its GRU in addition to its KGB (now FSB and SVR). The UK has its Defence Intelligence in addition to its MI6 and GCHQ. Much less high profile, Defence Intelligence is more analytical than operative – as indeed is GRU, Skripal was an analyst.
Defence Intelligence had its proudest modern moment when it refused to endorse MI6’s pack of lies on Iraqi WMD, and earned the hatred of MI6 and of Blair and Straw as a result. This was confirmed by the Chilcot report which stated that MI6 even actually hid some of the intelligence material from the Defence Intelligence Service to prevent their rubbishing it.
I hope you will forgive me for pointing out that the opposition of the Defence Intelligence to the Blair Dirty Dossier was first revealed in my memoir Murder in Samarkand, a decade before the Chilcot report confirmed it. It was one of the many reasons Straw attempted to block publication, and one of the many things revealed in my memoir – including of course the UK’s complicity in torture and extraordinary rendition – which the government claimed to be untrue, but in due course has been proved to be 100% accurate. As it should be, as Murder in Samarkand only recounts things I personally witnessed first hand.
As this is the last day of Banned Books Week, I hope you might further forgive me (and I know I am pushing it) if I mention my prequel to Murder in Samarkand, The Catholic Orangemen of Togo. I view it as a much better book, and I was bitterly disappointed when my publisher, who had bravely defied the government lawyers over Murder in Samarkand, backed down and pulled the publication of The Catholic Orangemen due to libel threats from mercenary commander Tim Spicer. It thus became a Banned Book. I privately printed and sold 1,000 copies, and as technology advanced more recently made it available on print on demand. (I know, Amazon…) But it remains a real regret it has reached so few people. You are welcome to download it entirely free here.
Anyway, after that lengthy advertorial let me get back to the DIS. DIS remain rather more attached to the truth than MI6, so when Defence Minister Gavin Williamson tweeted out a thrilled endorsement of Bellingcat’s work on Colonel Chepiga, DIS urgently advised that he delete it. Which he did.
Which is not to say DIS are sure it is not Chepiga; rather they believe – as would anyone with half a brain – that the Bellingcat photo falls a long way short of proof. The British security services have been unable to stand up the ID with facial recognition technology. The experts are describing the Boshirov/Chepiga identification as “possible”.
I have this information from an impeccable Whitehall source, who told me there is a concern in the security services that runs like this. They genuinely believe Boshirov and Petrov are GRU agents and the would-be assassins. (I judge that my source themself believes the security services really do think this). Bellingcat, while they are sometimes fed security service material, did not in fact get fed the Chepiga material by the CIA or MI6, whether or not through a cutout. The security services are worried the Chepiga ID may be a blind alley fed to Bellingcat’s sources by the FSB. If the UK government endorses it, this could be followed by the Russians producing Chepiga and apparently discrediting the entire British narrative.
Hence the fact no charge has been laid against Chepiga, and the charges are still in the name of “Boshirov”, plus the fact that no British minister or official has named Chepiga, with only the fool Williamson stepping out of line and being slapped down.
Please note I am not endorsing the views and beliefs of the British intelligence services; I am reporting them.
Russia is fascinating at the moment. Komsomolskaya Pravda reports Ministry of Interior identification experts unofficially endorsing the Chepiga/Boshirov identity. Now there is no way these experts in the Ministry of the Interior – who would not be hard for the authorities to single out – would have done that for Komsomolskaya Pravda without an official nod. Either the Russians are indeed egging on the British into a false identification, or some inter-agency rivalry is afoot in Russia. This follows on the very open report in Kommersant – which is very close to Putin – that opinion was divided in Chepiga’s home village.
None of which brings us an awful lot closer to the truth of what happened in Salisbury, which I suspect is a great deal more complicated than any official narrative. But it is a fascinating peek into a shadowy world most people never see inside, with which I was once familiar.